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The City of Delta's plan for rental housing

Renters are relying on secondary suites as the number of purpose-built rental apartment buildings in Delta remains low

Will it become easier to find an affordable place to rent in the City of Delta?

That’s one of the big questions facing many who can’t afford to buy a place of their own as the province in late 2022 announced it is introducing new laws to build homes people need, make it possible for homes that are vacant to be rented and remove discriminatory age and rental restrictions in stratas that hurt young families.

The Housing Supply Act will not take effect until mid-2023.

Delta already has a strategy in place and ready to implement to improve the number of rental units outlined within its Housing Action Plan, approved in late 2021 and aimed at increasing variety and affordability over the next five years.

The strategy notes that the housing affordability challenges experienced by renters generally require more intervention than the challenges experienced by owners.

Some of the recommended actions already being implemented, among the strategies is for Delta to, among other things, promote priority housing types through a comprehensive incentives package.

Among the other strategies is for Delta to introduce tenant relocation and rental stock protection policies.

The city is to also set to pilot inclusionary zoning to help require that new development includes a portion of units as affordable rental.

The actions outlined in the action plan are based on the findings of the Delta Housing Needs Assessment, which did not have encouraging numbers when it comes to the availability of affordable rental housing in the city.

The assessment found that nearly 80 per cent of Delta's housing stock is still owned, with about 75 per cent of rental stock being provided as secondary rentals, such as suites in detached homes or rented condos.

The amount of primary, purpose-built rental in the city only accounts for approximately five per cent of Delta's housing stock, while increases in household income are not keeping pace with the increases in rents or home sale prices.

According to that report, “Of those who rent, most rent secondary rental units like basement suites. Research shows that, in B.C., secondary rental units typically have higher rent rates and lower vacancy rates than purpose-built rental. Relying so heavily on the secondary market means more renters are spending more of their income on housing.”

The report also notes, “Differences between renters and owners become especially noticeable when comparing the incomes of owners and renters, and how many spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing. The numbers also show that those who do not own are likely to continue renting for the foreseeable future as the affordability gap continues over time.”

As far as secondary suites, the city in 2021 made amendments to make it easier to add a unit in a house, including eliminating the requirement for a minimum lot width of 49-feet to be eligible for a suite and allowing suites on properties that can fit three on-site parking spaces regardless of parking configuration.

A planning department report at the time noted Delta currently has more than 2,800 dwellings with a secondary suite occupancy permit, with approximately 75 percent of the authorized suites located in North Delta.

Out of approximately 23,600 single-detached lots in Delta, removing the lot width requirement would allow secondary suites on approximately 1,950 additional lots, provided that three off-street parking spaces is provided and B.C. Building Code requirements are met.

Approximately 220 lots that are less than 49-feet-wide already have a secondary suite.

When it comes to the current stock of secondary suites in the city, only one unit is permitted per single detached dwelling. 

The Housing Needs Assessment will also be updated within five years in accordance with provincial legislative requirements.